By Jihee Junn 

Spark ramps up its Internet of Things (IoT) network with a leading investment in Kiwi tech company Parkable. 

Auckland-based startup Parkable has raised more than $4.6 million in its first funding round led by telecommunications giant Spark. The funds will be used to increase Parkable’s international expansion and continue developing its technology and product. Currently, the company operates throughout New Zealand, Australia and most recently in China. 

Aimed at making the most of unused parking spaces in cities, Parkable is a sharing economy platform that allows companies and individuals to rent out their empty parking bays. Customers who need parking can then find and book these spaces via the Parkable app. 

Spark, which is understood to have contributed a significant amount to the $4.6 million raised, sees Parkable as a key addition to its increasing role in the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices are internet-connected devices that ‘talk’ to each other, also referred to as ‘smart devices’. The rise of IoT has been a major factor in fueling the race for 5G which promises a more IoT friendly ecosystem.

“[Spark] has built this brand new shiny IoT network and now they want things to put on it, and we’re a commoditised solution for car parking that they can sell,” says Brody Nelson, Parkable co-founder and chief technology officer. “We’ve got a few different sensors and one of them is an in-bay sensor that detects whether the vehicle is present or absent. It’s a magnetometer that can be connected to Spark’s IoT network.”

He says most IoT solutions to date have been bespoke whereas Parkable targets a tangible pain point for many corporations  – parking – adding further value to Spark’s IoT network. In turn, Parkable will have access to Spark’s vast array of corporate and small and medium-sized business customers. 

We see parking as a key vertical in our IoT segment and this is a strategic investment for us,” says Renee Mataparae, Spark’s Future of Connectivity lead. “The Parkable platform offers a unique value proposition in this space for our customers across many industries. It truly demonstrates one of the early use-cases for IoT technology – providing a valuable service for consumers and businesses alike and allowing for better asset utilisation.”

Earlier this year, Parkable launched into Australia after buying Park Genie, a smaller parking technology company in Brisbane, following a previous funding round involving Spark and NZ Venture Investment Fund. Recently it launched in Shanghai as part of a joint venture with Chinese investors. 

“We believe our Parkable for Business product is the best corporate parking optimisation solution in the world,” says Toby Littin, Parkable co-founder and CEO. “We want to push that very hard now, both in our existing markets in New Zealand, Australia and China, and in new markets where we know there is increasing parking scarcity.”

In addition to Spark, new investors include Movio co-founder Peter Beguely and renowned tech investor Rowan Simpson. Early-stage investors and advisory board members Jason Kilgour and David Brain have both increased their holdings. The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive is also a shareholder.